Doula What? A Birth Story

One of our mutual friends from college, a sweet gentle soul, Noah, found himself as an expecting father. 

I knew he had met someone “special”, our mutual friends had made comments that Noah had found “the one”. She was a little younger than us, a ripe 23 to our late twenties/early thirties group but I heard that she was a nice girl, and I could tell that Noah was smitten. As with any group of friends following the natural progression of life; we hadn’t really seen each other that often anymore and I had only met her a few times and briefly.

My first impression of her was that she couldn’t possibly be 23?! She was so mature! She was down to earth, intelligent, and self-assured.

When I heard the news, I was elated!! Yes! Another friend to join the parent club! It was starting to feel so lonely; I was desperate for our friends to understand how life changing having a baby was. Also- I had just gone through the ever enchanting experience of pregnancy, giving birth, and becoming a mother. It was still so fresh, I found myself just wanting to shake them and say “You have NO idea the beauty you are about to experience” But, a part of me knew that no matter how eloquently I explained it- they would never truly understand until the day they brought their little bundle into the world.

I had sent them some e-mails and shared this blog with Jess over the course of her pregnancy. I was terrified of coming across as a know-it-all, a“I did this already so obviously I know more than you and clearly my way is the best way” type of way. But I couldn’t help it- I wanted to drown them with advice and my experiences – with the world really! I found this quote much later, but it encompassed my feelings accurately…


“Becoming a mother prompts a transformation so profound that it entails a shape shifting into a new state of being. A radical change in the experience of life occurs and it is one that deserves to be talked about, embraced and celebrated.”


Jess was a true kindred spirit – anxiety and all! I felt she was impressionable, I didn’t think any of her friends had had babies recently and I’m sure she felt scared and alone. I almost wanted to save them, and their baby from all of the misconceived notions our culture believes; that I also believed at one time. I wanted to enlighten them with all of the revelations I had experienced and so much more. I was still woozy with the intoxication of Motherhood. Most of all, I just wanted to reach into her soul and whisper: don’t worry, you will know what to do. 

I gave her all of my beginner baby carriers in hopes that she would find a love for babywearing like I did. I tried to gently encourage breastfeeding even when she said she was not opposed to formula because I desperately wanted her to experience the beauty of nursing that I had experienced.

I wasn’t sure if they found me helpful or annoying but were being polite anyway until at their baby barbecue when Noah sought me out right before we were leaving and said with conviction “I want you to know that we both follow your blog…Jess reads it all the time”. I had not yet shared it with many people, and it was the first time that an outside friend, a MALE even! had mentioned the blog. I could tell he was serious and sincere and it filled me with pride. It was the first realization that what I was saying was being heard and people actually valued it. It was validating and inspiring. I really liked this whole idea of giving advice and helping new mothers. I enjoyed it, it gave me fulfillment. I stopped worrying about whether or not I was over-stepping boundaries and started to think… maybe this is what I’m meant to do? Maybe this is where I was meant to be all along.

A few weeks passed and I honestly thought that they would have their baby and I would see their birth announcement on Facebook and I would like and comment as a friendly acquaintance but secretly feel much closer to them, maybe see them a few months later at a social event where she would be feeding her baby formula and my heart would break a little inside. Never did I imagine I would become a part of their little one’s birth story forever or that she would find a love and a natural knack for nursing which she accredits to me. Or that I would have been given the opportunity to be a part of something so beautiful and special- the closest thing to a miracle we can experience here on earth.

It was a Wednesday evening, my husband and I had just gotten home from work and were sitting down at the dinner table when I get a text from Noah saying “Hey we wanted to let you know we are getting induced tonight!”.  I was honored… surprised that they even thought to text ME, of all people at one of the most exciting times in their lives. I replied with a “Congrats! and Good Luck!” and mentioned it excitingly but briefly to my husband. I felt somehow connected to them and their pregnancy through all of our e-mails and talks. I thought about them all through the meal, but thought they couldn’t possibly feel the same. A little later.. another text…“We were wondering if you would feel comfortable being here with us… we wanted to ask you before but were nervous you’d think it was too personal”. I think I was so shocked that the question didn’t even register with me at first and I completely ignored it. Then I came to – and realized the magnitude of what they were asking. I remembered my labor and how life changing and downright traumatic it was and pictured being there without a veteran mother by my side and knew instantly I would go. It’s not every day that someone trusts you enough to ask you to be with them during the birth of their first child – I would do whatever it took to be there.

I was giddy, nervous, kind of shocked. I’ve never been at a birth before- I’ve only gone through it once! We didn’t have a long history- is this too personal of an experience? Will I be in the way? Can I handle seeing someone in that type of pain? (Oh God, I shuddered at the memory) What the hell am I doing? Am I really going to be at someone’s birth? I didn’t know what to expect. I went to bed thinking I would get a call at 3am to come to the hospital and wasn’t sure what I would do- what if my daughter woke up and needed me? I’d never left her overnight before… but I never got a call and got up and went to work per usual.

I was still somewhat thinking this was all so surreal.. that they would text me saying “Hey thanks anyway, but we got this.” But around 8:30am after being at work for an hour, he called and said I should come to the hospital – they were about to give her the Pitocin. My daughter was with my sister in law like any other Thursday and I dropped what I was doing at work, and uncharacteristically left for the day with little explanation. I mean, I had committed- I was doing this.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out, or what was going to happen. I knew I had until 4:30pm until I picked up my daughter. Maybe she would have the baby before then? Maybe I would coach her through contractions until the epidural? I had no idea what to expect.

I made it to the hospital- and I thought I would be greeted with a laboring woman feeling pain with an intensity she had never experienced before and was wondering what on earth I would be able to do to help her. But, it was just the opposite – they had just administered the epidural. I thought what the hell am I going to do now? There was nothing for me to do! I was a little nervous; I didn’t really know how to act. Jess and I had just started to get to know each other and here I was in her hospital room watching her contractions on a monitor while the nurses gave her internal exams. I felt a little intrusive, I was hoping she didn’t regret asking me to come or that she felt uncomfortable having me there. I remember meeting her family and thinking these people are probably wondering what the hell this strange girl is doing here! I remember feeling young, like a child again when I spoke to them. But all in all, I felt oddly comfortable. Memories flooded me and I remembered the pure excitement of giving birth for the first time. I can only hope that any births in my future hold this same magic. I tried to remember the thoughts going through my head when it was me strapped to that bed just 9 months prior. I remembered feeling empowered when the nurses would say things like “contractions look great!” and I also remembered how discouraging it was to hear “You’re only such and such centimeters” or “It could be a while”. So I tried to be for her what I wish I’d had when I gave birth.

I remember feeling not my whole self because I didn’t have my daughter with me. I wanted the nurses and her family to know that I belonged there, I wanted to yell “I’m a mother! She’s just with a babysitter!” I was glad when I had to pump breast milk in their hospital bathroom because at least I had that connection to motherhood wherever I was, with or without her. I also realized I was very intimidated by it all. It was very medically controlled- the hospital and nurses ran the show, and they didn’t want anyone in their way. I felt a little useless but I stayed and talked with her, saying encouraging things- hoping I was helping her pass the time. I remembered how it felt like an eternity had passed between my epidural and the baby arriving- and I also knew of some unfortunate mothers who had labored on for days after getting the epidural. We realized quickly how eerily similar we were, and conversation came naturally. I remember watching her contractions on the monitor and looking over at her not feeling a thing, having a normal conversation with me. It made me realize how streamlined the medical community has made giving birth. I almost felt like she was getting cheated out of something, the experience being stripped from all of the emotion involved. It was that day that I decided I would have an all-natural birth if God blessed me with another baby. I asked the nurse if they would give the baby right to her for skin to skin (something I didn’t get to do) and if they encouraged nursing right away. The nurse was kind of terse with me (as I am when a stranger questions my job performance), but I really only asked so Jess would hear me and be aware of these things. I thought I would try to give her the experiences I had missed out on and regretted due to inexperience.

4:30pm had rolled around, and I knew I had to go. I wasn’t sure if they had expected me to stay the whole time or were happy to see me leave. I knew that although they were close to parenthood, they didn’t yet understand how I was truly tethered to my baby. At this point, the nurses had not checked her for dilation since early in the morning and I was afraid she was in for a long night. I was secretly a little worried that the OB would end up delivering the baby by C-section later (because of the high rates of caesareans with inductions and her not progressing quickly during the day). I envisioned coming back with my husband and baby and visiting with a gift the next day or so. I said my good byes, and said text me if you want me to come back and went on my way. I thought maybe they were relieved to have their privacy back.

I was nursing my little one to sleep when I get a text from Noah “Hey Tara she’s about to start”. It was sent as a “text message” and not an “iMessage” so I thought it was from earlier that day and it just never went through. I was only home for a few hours, there was no way she had progressed that fast? I texted back with a “What, she’s pushing!?” and all I got was a “Come!!!!!”. I did my best to put the baby to bed as quickly as possible, and jumped in my car and drove back to the hospital. I was filled with adrenaline- I also felt this way when my best friend was in labor states away and I was only experiencing it through text updates. The experience is infectious in any capacity.

I made my way to the hospital, now dark and quiet…no longer the bright bustling place it was during the day. I passed by her father who looked oddly relaxed…but also happy. I said “Hey! How is Jess doing?!” He was warm and friendly, and greeted me like he’d known me forever and not only a few hours; “She had the baby, she’s beautiful!”. I made my way back to their hospital room, and was reunited with the giddy cheerful voices of family members who have just welcomed a new life into their midst.

You know that saying you always hear about pregnant women “glowing”? I never truly understood what this meant until I walked into that hospital room. I swear it was like a light surrounded her. She was truly glistening. She looked radiant and beautiful and triumphant. She was a woman who had just gone through the insurmountable, life changing experience such as childbirth for the first time and I had the honor of being in her presence. I congratulated her and welcomed her to the sisterhood of motherhood; how did we ever find ourselves so fortunate.

I can still feel the warmth that filled my soul as I watched her nurse her hours old newborn with a natural ease. I can think of nothing else on earth more pure than the image of this tiny new baby fitting perfectly in her arms, the peaceful contentment on both their faces illuminated only by the dim light of a single hospital lamp. I felt blessed to have caught a glimpse of something much greater than myself, something I can only begin to understand. I was witnessing Love become tangible if even for a moment.

 

Mia Grace DePasqua
Arrived May 28th, 2015 at 7:39pm
6lbs and 18inches of joy!

 

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